Es hora de que la comunidad internacional defienda a los niños palestinos

Monitor de Oriente 7/12/2017

Niños palestinos haciendo sus deberes en una chabola de un barrio pobre de Gaza [Ezz Zanoun/Apaimages]

 

El maltrato que Israel perpetra contra los niños palestinos no es ninguna novedad. Más bien es un ejemplo de las muchas maneras en las que rompe con el derecho internacional y el derecho internacional humanitario. Aunque, en el pasado, se ha enfrentado a críticas por su maltrato de los niños palestinos, sobre todo en relación a los niños que son llevados bajo custodia y ante sus tribunales militares, estas acciones aún no han recibido verdaderas represalias.

Por lo tanto, es alentador que puede que esto esté a punto de cambiar y, encima, en Estados Unidos. La Ley de Promoción de los Derechos Humanos para Acabar con la Detención Israelí de Niños Palestinos requiere que el Secretario de Estado certifique anualmente que los fondos invertidos o gastados por Estados Unidos en ayuda de Israel “no respaldan la detención militar, los interrogatorios, el abuso o los malos tratos que reciben los niños palestinos”. La legislación mantiene vigente la asistencia financiera comprometida con Israel.

El proyecto de ley destaca que Israel ratificó la Convención de los Derechos del Niño el 3 de octubre de 1991, que establece – (A), en el artículo 38 (a) que; “ningún niño sufrirá tortura u otro trato o castigo cruel, inhumano o degradante”. Declara que “en la Cisjordania ocupada por Israel, existen dos sistemas legales separados. La ley militar israelí se impone a los palestinos y la ley civil israelí que se aplica a los colonos israelíes”.

Además, señala que el ejército israelí detiene a entre 500 y 700 niños palestinos de edades comprendidas entre los 12 y los 17 años cada año, a los que procesa ante un sistema judicial militar que, según establece la ley, “carece de las garantías básicas y fundamentales del proceso, violando los estándares internacionales”.

Defence for Children International – Palestine (DICP) señala que “Israel tiene distinción de ser el único país que procesa sistemáticamente a entre 500 y 700 niños todos los años en tribunales militares que carecen de los derechos justos de juicio y de protección”. Además, destaca que, en los 590 casos documentados por DCIP entre 2012 y 2016, el 72% de los niños palestinos detenidos denunciaron actos de violencia física, y el 66% sufrió maltrato verbal y humillaciones.

Según Khaled Quzmar, Director General de DCIP, “a pesar del continuo compromiso con organismos de la ONU y de las muchas peticiones a acatar el derecho internacional, el ejército y la policía israelíes continúan con los arrestos nocturnos, la violencia física, la coerción y las amenazas contra los niños palestinos”.

La reciente introducción del proyecto de ley en el Congreso estadounidense tiene como objetivo evitar que los dólares de los impuestos de EEUU paguen las violaciones de los derechos humanos de los niños palestinos durante el curso de una detención militar israelí. Pretende establecer, como mínimo, una demanda estadounidense en favor de los derechos básicos del proceso y de la total prohibición de la tortura y el maltrato contra los niños palestinos detenidos y procesados en el sistema judicial militar de Israel.

En 2012, la Oficina de Asuntos Exteriores y de la Commonwealth británica encargó a nueve abogados un informe sobre el problema humanitario con los niños palestinos. En sus conclusiones, afirma que “Israel incumple los artículos 2 (discriminación), 3 (intereses del niño), 37(b) (recurso prematuro a la detención), (c) (no separación de sus familiares adultos) y (d) (acceso inmediato a abogados), y 40 (uso de grilletes) 111 de la Convención de la ONU sobre los Derechos del Niño”. Además, concluyó, basándose en sus descubrimientos, que “Israel también se salta la prohibición del trato cruel, inhumano o degradante del artículo 37(a) de la Convención. El transporte de prisioneros menores a Israel incumple el artículo 76 de la Cuarta Convención de Ginebra. La falta de traducción de la Orden Militar 1676 del hebreo es una violación del artículo 65 de la Cuarta Convención de Ginebra”.

El informe hace cuatro recomendaciones básicas y 40 específicas. La mayoría de las recomendaciones destacan las muchas infracciones que tienen que abordar las autoridades israelíes. En lugar de intentar asumir las recomendaciones del informe en 2016, Israel se negó a cooperar con el equipo que realizaría una visita de seguimiento para revisar hasta qué punto se habían adoptado las recomendaciones. Esto hizo que se cancelara la visita, y el FCO de Reino Unido no logró convencer a los israelíes para que la retomaran.

En respuesta a una pregunta del presidente del Grupo Parlamentario Reino Unido-Palestina, el entonces ministro de Exteriores, Tobias Ellwood, dijo: “Expresé mi decepción ante la falta de voluntad de Israel a albergar esta visita de seguimiento con la viceministra de Exteriores, Tzipi Hotovely, en mi visita a Israel el 18 de febrero. Varios oficiales de la embajada británica de Tel Aviv, incluido el embajador, también presionaron al ministerio de Exteriores británico para que cooperara, y lo seguirán haciendo. Seguimos comprometidos a trabajar con Israel para mejorar las prácticas respecto a los niños detenidos en el país”.

Hace poco, el parlamento británico ha considerado el problema de los niños palestinos y el trato que reciben por parte de Israel. Inicialmente, esto lo expresó un instrumento parlamentario llamado Early Day Motion (EDM). La EDM 563 se emitió el 20 de noviembre, y establece que “esta Cámara contempla con preocupación cómo cientos de niños palestinos siguen siendo arrestados y juzgados en tribunales militares israelíes, a pesar de su práctica de continuas violaciones del derecho internacional”.

La moción “señala la disparidad entre el trato que dan las autoridades israelíes a los niños palestinos, y exige que éstos no sean tratados de manera inferior a un niño israelí”.

La EDM 563 destaca con preocupación que “las recomendaciones del Informe sobre los Niños en Detención Militar en Israel de Unicef de 2013 siguen sin cumplirse, y requiere al gobierno que se comprometa urgentemente con el gobierno israelí para poner fin las constantes violaciones de los derechos humanos que sufren sistemáticamente los niños palestinos bajo custodia militar israelí”.

Cuando este texto fue escrito, 65 miembros (de 650) del parlamento habían firmado la moción. Esto incluye el apoyo de parlamentarios individuales de todos los partidos políticos de Inglaterra, Escocia y Gales. 

Las últimas medidas que han tomado el Congreso y el Parlamento británicos para señalar el abuso de Israel de los derechos de los niños palestinos ha sido bien recibido por Palestina y sus partidarios. Ha llevado décadas que los derechos de los niños recibieran algo de atención real. Si se aprueba la ley en Estados Unidos, supondría un verdadero cambio en la política que condicionaría parte de los fondos otorgados a Israel para cumplir con el respeto a los derechos humanos; en concreto, los de los niños palestinos. Si no se aprueba, el mensaje que recibirán los niños palestinos es que Estados Unidos no se preocupa por su situación. Un EDM con apoyo en el parlamento británico llamará la atención sobre el tema y permitirá que se consigan acciones reales del gobierno para que presione a Israel a cambiar su inaceptable trato contra los niños palestinos, tanto moral como legalmente.

Es hora de que los niños palestinos reciban protección ante los abusos de las fuerzas ocupantes. A Israel no le incomodan sus abusos, y esto sólo cambiará cuando la comunidad internacional haga algo para ayudar a los maltratados. En cuanto a Israel, un Estado sin moral, cuando se trata de palestinos, al menos podrían aplicarles las mismas prácticas y leyes a los niños palestinos y a los suyos propios.

East Jerusalem is occupied but the hearts and minds of the children are not

This column first appeared in the Middle East Eye on 6/10/2016

Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of people all over the world. I was fortunate to visit it again recently, or rather “return”, as my parents were both born in this great city.

My first sighting of the Dome of the Rock never fails to send a shiver down my spine. There is no other place like it. It is home to holy sites revered by followers of the world’s three great religions Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They are literally within shouting distance of each other.

Politically, Jerusalem is claimed by Israel as its “eternal united capital”, but the Palestinians too claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. No state, apart from Israel, considers it to be Israel’s capital and, in the absence of a Palestinian state, Palestinians can only dream of it becoming their capital.

The additional reality is that far from it being united, the city is divided into West Jerusalem, which is predominantly, if not exclusively, inhabited by Jews today after the expulsion of its Palestinian residents by Jewish gangs in 1948, and East Jerusalem with an overwhelmingly Palestinian population but an increasing number of Jewish settlers in illegal settlements which Israel has been building since the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

One city, two worlds

The contrast between the two Jerusalems could not be starker. As a friend who recently visited for the first time told me: “I could not believe the difference between west and east. The west in many places had a western, American feel with wide roads, pavements and grass verges, while the east seemed underdeveloped, crowded and chaotic.”

There are many aspects of the occupation of East Jerusalem that are troubling, including the settlements, the wall, house demolitions, house evictions, arbitrary closures, attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque and lack of permits for Palestinians to build and expand. However, the situation for children is particularly disturbing.

A quick drive through east and west reveals almost no playgrounds or parks for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem to use while a visitor would encounter many well-equipped playgrounds and parks in the predominantly Jewish west.

While Palestinian families occasionally make use of facilities in West Jerusalem, they do so reluctantly, fearing discrimination and harassment by their Jewish counterparts. Instead, some choose to make a journey to Ramallah or Jericho for their children’s and their leisure outings. This is sad because it reduces the opportunities for interaction between the two communities, especially the children, before their characterisation of the other is formed through parental or societal influence.

You have to ask what the municipality presiding over both parts of the city is doing to deliver services to the Palestinian taxpayers, who cannot turn to the Palestinian Authority for them because Israel does not allow it to operate in Jerusalem.

Never shall they meet

Opportunities for Jewish and Palestinian children to mix at school are almost non-existent. Jerusalem’s only Arab-Jewish school has faced attacks from Jewish extremists including an arson attack in November 2014, anti-Arab graffiti in June 2015, and even had its listing on Waze, a google-owned app changed to “a threat”.

While the two populations are largely segregated, the level of poverty in the city affects both communities with some 50 percent of Jerusalem’s 850,000 residents living below the poverty line including 82 percent of the population in East Jerusalem.

The impact of Israel’s “security needs” on Palestinian children is profound. Every year, hundreds are arrested and interrogated. Between January and the end of August, 560 children alone were detained by Israel. Many are taken during the night or in the early hours of the morning. They are reportedly often deprived of the presence of a parent or lawyer and sometimes are made to sign confessions written in Hebrew under duress.

In the absence of reasonable provision of leisure facilities and under a brutal daily occupation you would think that children can find some comfort, enjoyment and security in their East Jerusalem schools.

Well, on the face of it, this should be possible. However, in reality there is no happy story to tell. Israel, through its occupation, is on a mission to attract the hearts and minds of Palestinian children, to love it, adore it and accept it as the ruling entity over them, without question.

During my visit, I witnessed the start of the new school year. Families were busy buying books, stationary and the status symbol school bag for their children. The bag tends to be in the style of the current craze. This year, it seemed anything depicting images from Disney’s Frozen was a must have.

One of my young relatives was upset not because she had not bought a Frozen bag and book covers, but because her cousin was also planning to buy the same. “Why can’t she buy Mini Mouse?” she asked. Children will be children. She, like most if not all Palestinian children, was oblivious to the battle for her identity and belonging that is being waged by Israel on Jerusalem’s youngest residents.

Chronic shortage of space

East Jerusalem’s schools suffer from a basic lack of infrastructure and resources.

A report published in August by the nonprofit organisation Ir Amim found that the number of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian children studying in the “informal education system” – schools which are publicly recognised, but only partially funded and operated by third parties – has surpassed those studying in both the formal education system, which are fully publicly funded and operated, and those who study in private schools.

Ir Amim reported that the shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem had grown to 2,672 units, stating that “authorities have perpetuated the classroom shortage by not allocating sufficient land to build more classrooms in East Jerusalem”.

The report also worryingly noted that 36 percent of students drop out of school in East Jerusalem. Anecdotally, the number of boys that drop out is higher than girls. As men are often the main breadwinner in families here, this raises a serious question about what the boys go on to do with their time, considering their low skill levels and the lack of opportunities for employment, and its overall impact on the society.

As a result of parent perception of the inadequacy of public schools, many are forced to turn to private education. This is extremely costly, particularly when one considers the economic situation in East Jerusalem characterised by low wages and high taxes.

Hearts and minds

The other worrying feature of the current situation is Israel’s attempt to influence children’s understanding of their identity and how they should view it. It has been trying to do this through the imposition of the Israeli curriculum as opposed to the PA curriculum in East Jerusalem schools. Israel has been trying to do this for years but, having faced severe resistance from parents and the schools themselves, it is now linking the release of investment in schools to the adoption of the curriculum.

People I talked to during my recent visit referred to this as “educational blackmail”. Several told me they felt that Israel “was brainwashing our children to forget their Palestinian identity while at the same time becoming admirers of their occupier,” as one put it.

The Israeli curriculum refers to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and encourages children to celebrate what Israel has done since capturing it or, as they refer to it, as its “unification”. This is only one example of how Israel attempts to impose its own narrative on impressionable young children in early school years.

My recent experience though tells me that Israel cannot win the battle for the hearts of the children who are Palestinian, feel Palestinian and will grow up as Palestinian. Israel may feel that imposing its own narrative through blackmail may change minds, but it will fail. Palestinian schools may adopt the Israeli curriculum in order to secure funds, but Israel should realise that the industrious and proud Palestinians will ensure their children think Palestinian too.

East Jerusalem may be under occupation, but the hearts and minds of the children are not.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Hanan al-Hroub is a shining beacon for Palestine

The Middle East Eye published my latest article on 16/3/2016

Hanan al-Hroub is a shining beacon for Palestine

Hanan al-Hroub was handed the second annual global teacher prize at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai on 13 March. Announcing the name of the prize winner, Pope Francis said “Part of education is to teach children how to play.” He congratulated al-Hroub for winning the prize “due to the importance she gave to the role of play in a child’s education”.

Accepting her award, al-Hroub said: “I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage. I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular.” The pride that she brought to a whole nation still fighting for its legitimate rights could be felt not only back in the occupied territories but in the Palestinian refugee camps and the rest of the diaspora.

The announcement was greeted with loud cheers and the waving of Palestinian flags in the hall but also with joyous celebrations among Palestinians the world over.

The last time this unity in celebration among Palestinians everywhere was seen on this scale was when the now famous Palestinians singer Mohammed Assaf won Arab Idol back in 2013. Assaf and al-Hroub share not only being winners but also originating from Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. Both grew up under Israel’s military occupation and witnessed its violence first hand.

Assaf almost missed the opportunity to audition for the Arab Idol programme due to the siege on Gaza. Following his win, Assaf was named a goodwill ambassador for peace by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas also named him ambassador of culture and arts.

Al-Hroub’s work which led to her global award demonstrates that despite the extremely difficult conditions under which Palestinians grow up, there is a determination to excel in their lines of work and to seek non-violent means to contribute to the development of their society. Al-Hroub’s approach to dealing with children that have either experienced violence themselves or witnessed it first hand – as her own children had – is detailed in her book We Play to Learn.

It is reported that the trigger for her work was her children’s experience of a shooting incident. The work led to her developing interventions to help children cope with their experiences and to say “no to violence”. Al-Hroub believes in “developing trusting, respectful, honest and affectionate relationships with her students and emphasises the importance of literacy. She encourages her students to work together, pays close attention to individual needs and rewards positive behaviour.”

Her biography confirms that her approach has “led to a decline in violent behaviour in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence; she has inspired her colleagues to review the way they teach, their classroom management strategies and the sanctions they use.”

The struggle for normality

It was rather timely that the announcement of al-Hroub’s award was made as the strike by Palestinian teachers came to an end. Both brought joy to the beleaguered Palestinian people battling to live anything like a normal life free from Israeli violence, restrictions on movement, ever expanding settlements and settler violence.

Teachers and children wake up in the morning with the uncertainty and the insecurity of not knowing whether this is to be a normal day, whether they will be able to make it to school and in some cases whether their school will be there when they get to it.

The recent example of the demolition of the Abu-Nawwar Primary School in occupied Jerusalem is but one example of the trauma Israeli policies inflict on children. Other examples include the daily terror that children face from illegal settlers on the school walk in parts of Hebron, which necessitate accompaniment by international volunteers. The IDF has also been known to fire gas canisters in the direction of children on their way to school and into schools. A recent report accused Israeli soldiers tossing astun grenade into another school in the West Bank.

In Gaza, children have seen friends die next to them in school under fire from Israeli soldiers and during the major wars on the strip, including that in 2014, witnessed deaths of relatives, loved ones and friends. However, despite this and the regular “study by candle light” due to the lack of electricity and abject poverty as a result of the siege, the resilience of the children and their teachers is admirable.

They continue to pursue the highest levels of education both at home and, when permitted, abroad and continue to excel. In 2013 14-year-old Palestine refugee Areej El Madhoun, a student at UNRWA’s school in Jabalia camp, received the first prize in in the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition, held in Malaysia every two years.

It was rather ironic that in the audience that saw al-Hroub receive her award in Dubai was the former Middle East Envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a man known for coining the phrase “Education, education, education” to indicate that this would be a key priority for his government. It is rather sad that his tenure as envoy saw the situation for Palestinians, especially children, worsen rather than improve.

The situation is particularly desperate in the areas designated “C” under the Oslo Accords which Israel administers and effectively bars any development of schools to cater for the children, including building any additional class rooms or facilities without planning permission which is almost always refused.

The 13th of March was about a Palestinian teacher excelling and being recognised for so doing on the international stage. The Palestinians see this as a major achievement for her and for them and all celebrated this in style. One can look forward to the day when Palestine is free, allowing the Palestinians to bring their talents to helping others and to tackling the world’s challenges. They will undoubtedly win many more awards.

Kamel Hawwash is a British/Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

 

Jerusalem at the heart of the conflict

My article was first published in Palestine News in February 2016

  
Jerusalem at the heart of the conflict

Violence has erupted in Jerusalem in recent months with scores of deaths and regular clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli Occupation Forces. Here Kamel Hawwash, a native of East Jerusalem and vice chair of PSC, explains why the future of the city lies at the heart of any peace agreement.

The issue of Jerusalem was one of the final status issues under the Oslo Accords, one that was so sensitive that the peace process may not have been set up if it had been one of the issues the Israelis and Palestinians had to tackle first. But after 22 further years of futile negotiations, the peace process has now failed in its entirety. Meanwhile, on the ground, Israel has created facts that make the achievement of peace based on what is termed “the two-state solution” unattainable.

Jerusalem has suffered more “facts on the ground” than most. This is because after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, it illegally annexed the city and successive Israeli governments have referred to it as the eternal united capital that will “never be divided.” They have pursued a policy of the Judaisation of East Jerusalem in an attempt to destroy its Palestinian Arab, Muslim and Christian character.

Fast forward to 2015/16 and, apart from the iconic skyline of Alaqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock compound, the city is unrecognisable. Many Israeli flags flutter over the city, both in the old part and where illegal settlements have been deliberately planted in what used to be completely Palestinian neighbourhoods like Attur and Silwan.

The settlements are built on Palestinian land which mainly ended up in the hands of settler organisations through shady deals, for example where Palestinians believe they are selling to other Palestinians but find they are victims of an act of deception. Israel also uses the law of absentees to confiscate Palestinian land and homes handing them over to settlers with Israeli courts generally approving these immoral acts.

In addition Israel has almost completely encircled Jerusalem with a belt of settlements built on illegally occupied land in the West Bank to cut the city off, making it impossible for East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state. The rest of the area in the centre of the West Bank, often referred to as E1, is subject to regular Israeli plans for construction which the international community strongly opposes as filling the area with settlements would finally kill off any prospect of the two-state solution.

As well as building settlements, the Israelis have evicted many Palestinians from homes in Jerusalem neighbourhoods like Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah because settler organisations claim they used to belong to Jews before 1948. Apart from the immorality of these acts, the effect is that space for Palestinians to build and develop is reduced and opportunities for young people to set up homes in their neighbourhoods are almost nonexistent. Meanwhile they are forced to watch Jewish Israelis develop their lives on land illegally taken from them as a people.

When Israel occupied East Jerusalem it issued the indigenous Palestinian population with special identity cards carried in a blue wallet which denoted residency rights. But the Israeli authorities can take away the “blue ID,” as it is known, at any time if they judge that Jerusalem is longer the “centre of your life.” This can be if a Palestinian moves to work in the West Bank or live or study abroad. A Jewish Jerusalemite who leaves the city to work elsewhere in Israel or to live abroad does not lose the right to live in Jerusalem.

Israel has also used the route of the separation wall to exclude tens of thousands of Jerusalemites from the city. They have to pass through checkpoints to reach services they used to access prior to the construction of the wall such as education or health. They pay taxes to the city’s council but do not receive services in their neighbourhoods and Israel bars the Palestinian Authority from offering alternative services. This leaves residents of areas such as Abu Dis and Alram in no man’s land.

Palestinians are also witnessing a replacement of Jerusalem’s Palestinian history with a Jewish one by stealth. This can be seen through road signs which no longer list the road or neighbourhood name in Arabic using its historical Arabic name but by a Hebrew replacement. So young Palestinians and visitors will use the Hebrew replacement thus providing further Judaisation of the city.

Under PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, the number of “visits” by Jewish settlers to Alaqsa mosque has increased. They take place without invitation or coordination with the Jordanian Waqf, which under the various agreements administers the Muslim Holy site. The settlers are accompanied by Israeli Occupation Forces and clashes erupt regularly between Palestinian worshippers and the settlers.

In order to facilitate the settler visits, Israel regularly bars Palestinians from entering the mosque. This has led Palestinians to believe that Israel plans eventually to divide the site between Jews and Muslims and to fear that the number of settlers who wish to replace Alaqsa with a Jewish temple is increasing both in number and influence in what is a settler-led government.

In Jerusalem Palestinians and Israelis interact regularly, unlike other parts of the West Bank. At times of rising tensions, this can lead to friction and in some cases outright violence. While Israelis are protected by the occupation forces, Palestinians feel vulnerable as they have no confidence in the occupation forces offering protection. Incidents such as the burning alive of Palestinian child Muhammed Abu Khdair in 2014 and the lack of justice for him confirm these fears.

The impact of all these things has been to create a feeling among the Palestinians of Jerusalem that they are losing their city to the colonisers. Israel controls every aspect of their daily lives and does all it can to control the demography of the city to at best maintain the current proportions of Israeli Jews and Palestinians but at worst to change it over time to ensure a clear Jewish majority.

This has helped ferment a state of continuous Palestinian anger as they see their city being taken away from them. This anger can explain the recent Palestinian uprising which started in October in which over 150 Palestinians have lost their lives in alleged attacks against Israeli civilians and occupation forces. Because the Palestinian Authority, which exercises a security cooperation with Israel in the rest of the West Bank, has no presence in annexed East Jerusalem, it has paradoxically allowed the population to hit back at the occupation with acts of revenge that have at times been violent.

As the French try to initiate another attempt to find a way forward to peace, all stakeholders should see East Jerusalem Street as the barometer for the seriousness of any initiative. If Palestinians can see an end to the rabid Israeli colonisation of their city, then peace might have a chance of coming to the Holy Land. Without this, the current rise that started in Jerusalem could morph into a full intifada.

MBC TV gives Arab Kids a Voice

Recent years have seen a spate of talent shows on ArabTV, especially on the Saudi channel MBC. The shows gave effectively been franchises of well know western ones such as the Voice and …. Got talent. 

One of the most memorable moments was when Palestinian singer, Mohammed Assaf won Arab Idol in 2014. He managed to join the show by the skin of his teeth,jumping over the fence around the venue in Cairo having been delayed on his way from Gaza. He has become a star since then and most Palestinians point to his achievement as an example of what many could achieve if they were given freedom and independence.

This year I was persuaded to watch the Voice kids. The format will be familiar to readers. Three judges sit in big red chairs and if they like a voice they press a big button to turn and see the singer. If more than one does so, the singer has to choose which famous singer he or she want to join in the latter stages.

  
I was moved to write these words having been stunned watching children as young as seven perform with such panache and skill that stunned the well know judges. Children from as far west as Morocco, as Far East as Bahrain, as far north as Syria and as far south as Egypt brought the house down in 2-minute bursts. 

  
What brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion were a number that were refugees. One was a Palestinian boy from Lebanon, another an Iraqi refugee from Lebanon and a number of Syrian children.

To watch these amazing children look for the YouTube channel for MBC the Voice kids.

Our war torn Middle East has been cruel to all but particularly to the children. Some have seen loved ones die in front of their eyes, seen their families lose everything and have been without schooling for years.

Thank you MBC for giving some of these kids the chance to show their talents but also to remind the Arab world that things can be different. Given half a chance our children will excel and make great contributions to humanity. 

Video of Israeli forces arresting Palestinian children

This video has been shared extensively on social media.  This is not an isolated incident but rather a daily occurance.  The IDF arrests children from areas it should not be in.  It is therefore abreach of International Law to even be there but also of the rights of these children.

Remember that most Palestinain children see Israelis in this context or as illegal settlers that live on land stolen from their v illages or towns.

Palestinians need protection from Israel.

How the Conservative party conference slogan could apply to Palestine injustice

I spoke to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and New Statesman Conservative Party Fringe meeting in Manchester on the 6th of October 2015. The title was ‘A just policy for Palestine?’.

This was the first PSC fringe meeting at a Conservative Party Conference, proof that solidarity with Palestinians is transcending party boundaries.  In fact Palestine is mainstream in British politics.

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This is firstly a response to a just cause and to Israeli illegal actions, including the continuing occupation and the siege on Gaza.  More specifically, the outrage that ordinary people felt about Israels violent action in the summer of 2014 in which Gaza was subjected to 51 days of hell and over 2,000 Palestinian lost their lives including hundreds of innocent children.

The fringe meeting was chaired by Stephen Bush , Editor of the Staggers, New Statesman.  The other speakers were Dr Tania Mathias, a recently elected Conservative MP for Twickenham, and Arthur Goodman from Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

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Dr Mathias recalled her time in Gaza during the First intifada and sounded hopeful of a resolution to the conflict despite the recent escalation in violence and the loss of life in Jerusalem and a number of areas in the West Bank.

I started my remarks by reminding the meeting that Palestinians are human beings like everyone else and that anyone interested in resolving their injustice must understand that they are not a lesser people.  That it is inadequate to talk of alleviating their suffering and to talk and work for the restoration of their full rights.

I referred to the injustice of any Jewish woman anywhere in the UK being able to take a flight to Tel Aviv in the morning and be given Israeli citizenship, a home and a life but that my mother who was born in Jerusalem before 1948 is not able to return to her homeland because Israel won’t let her.

I reminded the meeting that Israel was created on our homeland, without our permission and indeed against our will.  Balfour had more right to promise Wales to the Zionists than Palestine, which in 1917 Britain did not even occupy.  How would the Welsh have reacted to this.  Would they have happily ‘shared’ Wales with the Zionists?

The root of the problem to this day continues to be the occupation and Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees to return.

British policy

Successive British Government policy has been For a 2-state solution to be achieved through negotiations. Like the rest of the World, except Israel, the UK believe the settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank to be illegal.  Despite over 20 years of negotiations after the Oslo Accords were signed we are further from a solution than we have ever been.

It is important to remember that at the start of negotiations there were around 200,000 settlers in the West Bank, but that there are now over 600,000 settlers.  The peace process has provided cover for the Israelis to do this, claiming they were not required to halt settlement construction.  But how can you hope to achieve peace with a neighbor whose land you gobble up?

Sir Alan Duncan, a senior Conservative MP identified settlements as illegal and called those who support them as extremists. and in fact named supporters as extremist.

But it isn’t just about settlements. House demolitions, imprisonment, especially child prisoners, movement restrictions, attacks on religious sites, settler violence, Gaza siege. It is the whole daily grind of the occupation that has resulted in the recent escalation in violence.

Israel controls the whole of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.

In recent years, Israeli society has moved to the right and we currently have an extremist settler led Government. Major parties in it have declared that they do not accept a  2-state solution and some favour annexation of major parts of area C.

So British Government policy Is out of step with Israeli political reality

But even worse than that, Britain provides impunity for Israel. It stood with it during last year’s Gaza war and said it was entitled to self-defense.  Despite 2,400  Palestinians  losing their lives, mostly civilians against just under 70 Israelis mostly military.

Even when Britain takes a moral stand like voting for the adoption of the UNHRC Report on Gaza which said both Hamas and Israel committed war crimes, the British Government invited entertained Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who leads a state which Britain agreed by endorsing the report had committed war crimes.

The former coalition Government changed the Law to protect Israeli war criminals also from being arrested under universal jurisdiction.  It did this only for Israel and no one else.  This means that suspected war criminals can visit London without fear of being arrested to face charges for their crimes.

More recently, the current Conservative Government, under pressure form he pro-Israel Lobby, has initiated legislation that would ban Local Authorities from refusing to offer contracts for services to companies that are complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine. This is in response to the growing BDS movement. It is doing this to protect Israel and no one else.

We need to end the double standards that treat Israel with kid gloves, provides it with impunity and protects its leaders from facing justice.  We can’t continue business as usual with a state which continues to impose a military occupation on millions of people, discriminates against its own citizens simply because they are not Jewish and will not allow the implementation of the right of return to Palestinian refugees, Their only crime was that they were the indigenous population on a land Zionist’s wanted for themselves.

Britain should end arms trade with Israel.  It cannot confirm whether Israel uses British arms or components to attack Palestinians under occupation.

We should end all trade with Illegal settlements. Labeling is good but not enough. We should make the settlement enterprise unviable.

An endless peace process will not deliver peace, nor will a lack of firm foundation, based on justice.

Arthur Goodman from JFJP agreed with my remarks and explained how the EU ISrael Association Agreement, could play a key role in pressuring Israel through its clauses on human rights.

 
Arthur Goodman from JFJP

This year’s Conservative party slogan can address the Palestinian injustice as follows:

Security for all in historic Palestine.

Stability through a genuine peace process, that is time limited, based on International Law, to deliver justice

Opportunity for Britain to play a key role in this and to atone for the role it played in the Zionist’s colonization of Palestine and the imposition of Israel on the indigenous Palestinians.

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I colsed by telling the meeting that for as long as Israel continues to occupy Palestine illegally, it is fully responsible for all deaths and violence in the cupied territories.  I also firmly beleive that whta is needed is for Israel to be told to vacate the occupied territories to a an agreed withdrawal schedule or face sanctions.  What it needs to vacate is clear.